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There’s gold in them thar exports. Lots of it.

The shiny yellow metal doesn’t get nearly the same attention from Canadian policy makers as the energy and automotive sectors do, but exports of gold have soared in recent years and are close to surpassing passenger vehicles to become Canada’s second-largest export commodity.

On Thursday, Statistics Canada credited exports of unwrought gold in the form of high-value shipments of refined gold, as well as transfers of gold assets in the banking sector, with driving roughly half the growth of total exports in February. That lifted Canada’s trade surplus with the world to its highest level since October.

The increase was driven by higher gold shipments to Switzerland and the Great Britain, the agency said. The demand from abroad came as gold prices soared in February. The price of gold has kept rising since, hitting a new record of US$2,300 per ounce.

Gold exports did top vehicle shipments during the early months of the pandemic in 2020, when lockdowns forced automotive factories to shut down their lines. Since then the value of gold exports have continued to soar, while exports of passenger cars and trucks have only rebounded to where they were in 2019. Meanwhile, crude oil and bitumen solidly hold the spot of Canada’s top export, with the value of shipments in February worth more than gold and vehicles combined.

Decoder is a weekly feature that unpacks an important economic chart.

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